Is the free market incompatible with Catholicism?

The pope’s right-hand man has essentially declared that free market economics is incompatible with Catholicism.  Speaking at a conference entitled “Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case against Libertarianism,” Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, drawing on statements from Pope Francis, said that the free market economy “kills” and oppresses the poor.

His condemnation seemed to conflate Ayn Rand-style libertarianism with free market economics, but it also scored theological points against the assumptions of autonomous individualism.  Many prominent American advocates of free market economic policies–such as Rep. Paul Ryan, Father Robert Sirico,  and Michael Novak–are Roman Catholics.

Catholic conservatives, what do you make of this?  Do these arguments carry any wait for Protestants, or is Protestantism tied up with the same “autonomous individualism”? [Read more...]

Imagination, Christian sub-cultures, & the Two Kingdoms

More from my interview with Mathew Block, in which a question about Christians refusing to attend to music, movies, books, or the like unless they are explicitly Christian, leads to a digression on the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. [Read more...]

Moralism of the right & moralism of the left

United Methodists are considering whether or not to have an amicable split, so as to accommodate both sides of the moral debates that the denomination is struggling with.  As I know from personal and family experience, Methodists have always had a strong emphasis on morality.  It certainly has an evangelistic strain, with its roots in the Wesleyan revivals, but its moral focus can tend to moralism, an emphasis on moral rectitude that overshadows the forgiveness of Christ.

The prospect of a Methodist split shows what is happening across many denominations.  There is a moralism of the right, fixating on traditional sexual morality, personal vices, and family values.  And there is a moralism of the left, fixating on “social justice,” care for the poor, and political liberalism.  (Note that it is possible to uphold what is “moral” without succumbing to “moralism.”)

But what–or, rather, Who–is often missing in moralistic churches of both the right and the left is Christ.  The right often relegates Him to the moment of conversion, whereupon Christians can then get to the real business of regulating their behavior.  The left reduces Him to a political liberal like themselves.  Both treat Him mainly as an example, rather than as Savior, Redeemer, and Sacrifice. [Read more...]

The essence of Protestantism?

Dale M. Coulter discusses H. Richard Niebuhr’s The Kingdom of God in America and the issue he raised of “constructive Protestantism.”  For Niebuhr, the essence of Protestantism is the unmediated relationship between the individual and God’s Word.  The issue then becomes how Protestantism can create or even support institutions.  Read the discussion.  What do you make of this? [Read more...]

Tullian Tchividjian expelled for crypto-Lutheranism?

Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian and the grandson of Billy Graham, was kicked out of the Gospel Coalition blogging community for what the GC folks are calling a doctrinal issue over sanctification.  Others claim other reasons, including Rev. Tchividijian’s criticism of how other GC members handled a sexual abuse scandal.  But I take the official statement from the Reformed organization seriously.

As we have posted, Rev. Tchividijian discovered the distinction between Law and Gospel in some Lutheran writers who helped him through a personal crisis in his ministry.  The complaints about “anti-nominanism,” being weak on sanctification,  and downplaying the role of moral improvement in salvation sound like common Calvinist misunderstandings of Lutheranism. [Read more...]

Law and Gospel in a short fairy tale

Will McDavid at Mockingbird quotes “The Ungrateful Son,”  an extremely short fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm.  Here it is:

Once a man and his wife were sitting outside the front door with a roast chicken before them which they were going to eat between them. Then the man saw his old father coming along and quickly took the chicken and hid it, for he begrudged him any of it. The old man came, had a drink, and went away.

Now the son was about to put the roast chicken back on the table, but when he reached for it, it had turned into a big toad that jumped in his face and stayed there and didn’t go away again.

And if anybody tried to take it away, it would give them a poisonous look, as if about to jump in their faces, so that no one dared touch it. And the ungrateful son had to feed the toad every day, otherwise it would eat part of his face. And thus he went ceaselessly hither and yon about the world.

What  can we learn from this rather bizarre folktale?  After the jump, see what McDavid makes of it. [Read more...]


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